Pets and fireworks, coping with stress – by Rory Cowlam BVetMed MRCVS
It’s fireworks season, great yeah?
That’s right, it’s coming to the end of October and that can only mean one thing. Halloween and bonfire night are on the way, how fun! But while it’s a treat for most, for some pet owners it’s the time of year they dread.
As a practicing vet, I am inundated with calls and consults with worried owners trying to prepare for fireworks and I can really sympathise. Until recently my own family included a rescue dog that hated the noise and flashing lights that came with fireworks.
So if you’re looking for a few handy tips to try and make this year that little bit less stressful for both you and your pet… you’ve come to the right place:
Follow this comprehensive guide to keep your pets happy during the firework/bonfire season
- DON’T PANIC: For me this is the most important point. Pets are so switched on to their owners. They feed off your emotion and your body language and if you are worried about the fireworks then chances are your pet will be too.
On the evening don’t fuss your pet, don’t go and find them and force a bear hug on them… this will only make them worse! If they come to you for reassurance, place a hand on them and talk calmly, but only if they come to you!
- Prepare: Hindsight is a beautiful thing right? This is definitely more aimed at owners with new pets. There is a lot of conditioning you can do to get your dogs and cats used to the sensory overload that fireworks bring. Don’t take your pet to a fireworks display but try and expose them to similar things such as turning the television up loud and getting them used to the hustle and bustle around town. You can even buy firework dvds that you can play loud on the tele to get your pets used to the noise and lights.
- Environment: Okay so it’s fireworks night and the first displays are starting… shut the curtains, turn the tv or radio on, make a nice comfy bed for your pet and make sure they stay indoors. For cats, it can help to make them an enclosed den where they can curl up and feel safe.
- Keep your pet content: Make a special effort on the day to take your dog on an extra long walk (early), offer them a little more food or give them their favourite chew toy to keep them happy.
- Pheramones: This is usually my “go-to” first step with nervous pets. Some people will argue that these pheromones do nothing but I personally think they can help take the edge off. They are not drugs and have no negative effects AND you can get them online. There are a lot out there, the most popular being feliway and adaptil.
With cats, I like to use a plug-in, make sure it is at ground height and in a room where they spend the most of their time.
With dogs the collars are very good as it is constantly with them no matter which room they’re in.Also… take a look at thundershirts.
If you’re still having no joy then go and speak to your vet. They will be able to help with some more advice and in severe, severe cases they may offer you some anti-anxiety or sedative drugs to help your pet (but please don’t try this without at least doing all the things above).